About   C-SPAN Video Library   Portrait Gallery   Classroom

About this
web site
American Writers: a journey through history is a permanent archive for educators, researchers and every one interested in the writers featured in the  C‑SPAN series.


Chapter I






Thomas Jefferson
Born: April 2, 1743 - Shadwell, Virginia
Died: July 4, 1826 - Monticello, Virginia


After studies at William and Mary College, Jefferson read law and became a planter and lawyer; from 1769 he was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses.
Watch the video
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
C-SPAN's Video Library: Thomas Jefferson
C-SPAN's Video Library: James Madison
In 1774 his "Summary View of the Rights of British America" made him famous as an early advocate of American independence. A delegate to the Continental Congress, he was appointed to the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence, and became its principal author.

After serving as governor of Virginia (1779-81), he was a delegate to the Congress (1783-85), where he drafted territorial provisions that were included in the Northwest Ordinances. In 1785 he was appointed U.S. minister to France. In 1790 George Washington appointed him the first U.S. secretary of state; he resigned in 1793 over conflict with Alexander Hamilton. His wide-ranging Notes on the State of Virginia (1784) enhanced his already high intellectual reputation and extended it into the fields of science and general scholarship.

Jefferson became vice president in 1797 under Pres. John Adams, whom he succeeded in 1801. As president, he oversaw the Louisiana Purchase and authorized the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He avoided entanglement in the Napoleonic Wars by signing the Embargo Act. In 1809 he retired to
Works by Thomas Jefferson
Notes on the State of Virginia
Account of Louisiana
American Christian Bible
Reports of Cases Determined in the General
Court of Virginia from 1730-1740, 1768-1772
A Summary View of the Rights of British America
The Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom
his home, Monticello, to pursue his many interests in science, philosophy, and architecture. Possibly the most broadly learned citizen of the entire country, he amassed an impressive library, which would become the core of the Library of Congress when the latter was burnt in the War of 1812. In 1819 he founded and designed the University of Virginia.

In 1813, after a long estrangement, Jefferson and Adams became reconciled and began a voluminous correspondence, exchanging views on national issues that illuminated much of the founders' philosophies. Their letters were later published in many editions as The Adams-Jefferson Letters.

James Madison
Born: March 16, 1751 - Port Conway, Virginia
Died: June 28, 1836 - Montpelier, Virginia

After graduating from the College of New Jersey, Madison returned to Virginia to begin his political career. He was elected to the state constitutional convention in 1776 and gained prominence as an advocate for religious freedom. At the 1787 Constitutional Convention he influenced the planning and ratification of the U.S. Constitution;
his active participation and his careful notes on the debates earned him the title "father of the Constitution." He collaborated with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay on the influential essays in the Federalist in support of the document, 29 of which appeared over his pseudonym, "Publius."

As a member of the new House of Representatives (1789-97), he sponsored the Bill of Rights and became a leader of the Jeffersonian Republicans. As U.S. secretary of state (1801-9) under Thomas Jefferson, he helped develop U.S. foreign policy that led to the Louisiana Purchase. Elected president in 1808, he was occupied by the trade and shipping embargo problems
Works by James Madison
The Federalist
Account of Louisiana
Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787
James Madison: A Biography in His Own Words
The Virginia Report of 1799-1800, Touching the Alien & Sedition Laws
caused by France and Britain that led to the War of 1812. His second term as president was marked principally by the war, during which he reinvigorated the army, and by his approval of the nation's first protective tariff. In 1817 he retired to his Virginia estate with his wife, Dolley, whose political acumen he had long prized. He continued to write articles and letters, and he served 10 years as rector of the University of Virginia. His writings were edited in nine volumes in 1900-10.

Web sites about Jefferson & Madison
Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress
Jefferson Exhibit at the Library of Congress
Jefferson Online Resources at the University of Virginia
Monticello: The Home of Thomas Jefferson
The Madison Debates
Madison Center at James Madison University


I   II   III   IV   V   VI   VII   VIII


C-SPAN.org    Book TV.org    Booknotes.org    Capitol Hearings.org
American Presidents.org    C-SPAN Alert!    Contact Us